Sunday, October 21, 2007

Intimidad: The "Rough" Cut

Having a partner in academia sometimes presents me with some unique opportunities.

Last night (Saturday), R's chair in Women's Studies hosted a screening for Intimidad, a documentary made by the same people who made Mardis Gras: Made in China and Kamp Katrina. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin were in town to attend special screenings of KK at the Ragtag, but wanted to test their new film on an academic audience. It was
an intellectually stimulating evening after a couple of hard weeks at work.

Coming in, I expected the film to be choppy, disjointed, and overdone since so many of the films shown at True/False tend to be this way. I figured that if directors brought somewhat unfinished pieces to film festivals, a screening of a film in some one's basement must be really rough. Thankfully, I was wrong.

What I got to see was one of the most intimate portrayals of family life that wasn't shot by someone in said family. The filmmakers followed Cecy and Camilo, a young couple who left their home in Santa Maria, Puebla for factory work in Reynosa, near the US/Mexico border. Not only did they leave their home, the couple had to leave their daughter, Loida in order to make a better life for all three of them in the north.

The filmmakers, now very adept at becoming that fly on the wall, allow the viewer an intimacy I'm not sure has ever been truly achieved in documentary films, or at least not as effortlessly as David and Ashley have done here. They capture the couple showering with hoses, Camilo's breakdown after learning he would spend time away from his partner, and the awkward reunion with Loida. There are few brief moments that remind you that the family is being filmed (Camilo motions to the camera a route to avoid a muddy road while the camera stays put), but their recognition of the cameras only brings the intimacy to a higher level as opposed to succumbing to a nuisance.

The narrative is seamless as it follows the couple to their factories (where Cecy and Camilo earn their videography credit), into their flooded shack of a rental home, back to their hometown, and eventually to their dream home. Throughout, there are subtle reminders in the form of visual metaphors taken from the rustic scenery and dire straights of those who live and work in Reynosa.

What I really liked about the story is that it doesn't fixate on the stereotypical power imbalance between the so-called third world and multinational corporations, although it is implied, the exploitation of workers is only a factor in the story. Instead, the focus is on Cecy, Camilo, and Loida as they try to negotiate economical hardship and migration within the familial context. The protagonists don't head to the US for the American dream; instead, they are only looking for a means to achieve their dreams of owning land in their own country.

In addition to the sneak peak at a great piece of nonfiction film work, it was a real pleasure to meet people like David and Ashley. These are two of the more cognizant individuals (when it comes to globalization and the myriad of issues associated with it) I've ever met. They know the score and make films that take you into the reality that you don't get from the nightly news, or even most documentaries.

I can't wait to see this film in its final cut at True/False (because they have to accept it - it's that good). And when you attend the festival (because you will), you will have to check out Intimidad to judge for yourself. Keep the weekend of February 28 through March 2 open so that you don't miss it.

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